Rep. Don Young smiles during a sit-down in the Juneau Empire’s offices last June. Young died on Friday, according to the longtime U.S. representative’s office. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Candidate crowd balloons on last day to register for special election

Filings ends at 5 p.m. Friday, but the race is already packed

It wasn’t an April Fool’s Day ruse, although some candidate names understandably caused double-takes. As of Friday evening, over 50 candidates, including a man named Santa Claus and former Gov. Sarah Palin, had filed to run in the special election to fill Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The election will determine who will serve out the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term. Twenty-seven candidates were registered on the Alaska Division of Elections website Friday morning, but the number nearly doubled — to 51 certified candidates — on the last day for candidates to file.

The field may narrow some. Candidates have until noon Monday to remove their name from the special primary election ballot, according to the Alaska Division of Elections. A full list of candidates for the special primary election can be found online at candidatelistspecprim.

Young died on March 18, as he was running for reelection for the seat he had held since 1973. The winner of the special election will only serve for a few months until the winner of the regular election in November is sworn in, but many candidates in the special election are expected to run in the general election as well. Candidate filing for the November election ends June 1. The Alaska Division of Elections listed 14 candidates registered in the general election primary as of Friday evening.

[Dates set for race to fill House seat]

Several of the candidates for the special election had announced their candidacy for the seat before Young’s death, but with the passing of a 49-year incumbent, several additional people stepped forward to run. Previous to Young’s death, Republican Nick Begich III — who previously worked for Young — and Democrat Christopher Constant had announced their intention to run.

But the race has since attracted a wide array of candidates including current and former state lawmakers, business people, public servants and community activists.

Former state Sen. John Coghill, a Fairbanks Republican, filed to run, as did current state lawmakers Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks. Revak previously worked in Young’s office. Revak is also filed to run in the general primary election, according to the Alaska Division of Elections.

Palin announced her candidacy in a Facebook post Friday, and also filed to run in the general primary election.

Also running unaffiliated is Santa Claus, a current North Pole City Council member, who legally changed his name in 2005.

Of the candidates, only Richard Morris, a nonpartisan, listed a Juneau address.

Young’s death occurred not just in the midst of an election season, but the first election season using Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting and open primary system, and while the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process is still being adjudicated. In March, DOE gave June 11, as the date for the special primary election but also said the vote would be conducted almost entirely by mail.

DOE Director Gail Fenumiai said at a March 22 news conference that both supply chain and labor supply concerns led the department to hold the election mainly by mail. The state’s legislative districts don’t impact the race for the U.S. House, Fenumiai said, but they do influence local polling places.

Under the state’s new voting laws — approved in a 2020 ballot initiative that passed with a slim majority — each election requires two rounds of voting: an open primary followed by a general election with the four top vote-getters from the primary.

Because of the timing of the special election, DOE announced the special general election vote and the primary for the November election will appear on the same ballot on Aug. 16.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire. Ben Hohenstatt contributed reporting to this article.

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